Many of us don’t realise just how much control we have over the alignment of our teeth, but the reality is that our dentin, bone and enamel are far less stable than we’d like to imagine. This is particularly true when it comes to children’s teeth because of the fact that they are consistently developing. And while genetics certainly plays a part in children developing crooked teeth, certain habits can also lead to these and other problematic dental issues like dental crowding, under-bites and overbites.
Thankfully many of these can be monitored and treated by your dental professional early on, however curbing certain childhood behaviours and instigating good oral health habits early may also alleviate the need for extensive treatment down the track. Here are some tips on how to prevent crooked teeth in children.
Discourage Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking can actually begin in the womb before a baby is even born and many children use it as a comforting tool or to soothe sore gums while they are teething. While most children grow out of the phase between the ages of two and four, if the habit continues past the age of about six when adult teeth are coming through, problems can start to develop. These can include damage to the roof of a child’s mouth, a misalignment of the front teeth, a narrowing of the upper jaw and the development of an overbite or open-bite.
When it comes to preventing cooked teeth as a result of thumb sucking, it is worth examining when your child tends to suck their thumb and then offer a substitute. So for example, if they suck their thumb when bored, try giving them an engaging toy to play with. Some experts agree that it’s important to block the thumb from entering the mouth so recommend things like thumb guards, however, if your child’s thumb sucking does become a concern, it’s best to obtain advice from a trusted medical and/or dental professional.
Encourage Good Oral Health
A leading cause of crooked teeth in children is thought to be due to poor dental hygiene, which can lead to issues like gum disease. This is because baby teeth have enamel that’s less densely mineralised than that of permanent teeth, meaning they are extremely susceptible to cavities. When gum disease is present in young children, decay and bacteria can penetrate the gums and start to affect the dormant adult teeth as well. Healthy teeth and gums are more likely to develop correctly, which is why developing good dental hygiene habits early is so important.
The process of ensuring your child has healthy teeth should start from when their baby teeth first erupt, so that by the time they’re around three years of age they know what it takes to keep teeth healthy. Brushing should be done with your assistance until they are about seven or eight, and brushing gently on their gums is also a great way to get your child used to the sensation.
Brush in a circular motion for at least two minutes and encourage your child to spit out toothpaste but not rinse after brushing – that way the fluoride will stay in their mouth for longer. Once your child is around 18 months of age, you can use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste, and at age six you can then switch to an adult toothpaste.
Part of encouraging good oral health is also introducing your child to their dentist. Take them with you to one of your own appointments and when your dentist gives the go-ahead, let them know that a visit to the dentist is an important part of being healthy. Family Tax Benefits and government programs like the Child Dental Benefits Schedule may also offer financial benefits and help you establish a good dental hygiene plan.
Be Aware Of Bruxism
Bruxism or teeth grinding can often be a symptom of stress, and just like adults, the way we deal with it differs from person to person. Some children lose sleep and others may grind their teeth when they’re sleeping. Because we generally grind our teeth at night, the problem is often not obvious and if it persists, tooth enamel can wear down, teeth can start to shift or their bite may start to change.
Crooked baby teeth can also lead to crooked adult teeth and an increase in the likelihood that your child may require future orthodontic treatment. Alternative stress relief can help ease issues like bruxism, however, your dental specialist may also recommend a custom mouth guard to stop your child’s jaws grinding and clenching while they’re sleeping.
Avoid Missing Teeth!
It’s important to take care of your child’s baby teeth to alleviate potential dental problems in the future, including preventing crooked teeth. Baby teeth act as space maintainers for their future adult teeth so if a child loses a baby tooth too early due to trauma or an extraction, their adjacent teeth can drift into the empty space. This can reduce the space that’s available later for an erupting adult tooth and can lead to overcrowding.
If this occurs, it’s important that you book an appointment with your dental specialist who can keep an eye on your child’s surrounding teeth in terms of collateral damage. They might also suggest a space maintainer to prevent the loss of space when your child’s adult teeth begin to come through.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
In terms of how to fix crooked teeth in children, the avoidance of certain habits is certainly a good first step in terms of reducing a misalignment or an incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches (also known as a malocclusion). However, the reality is that many variables can contribute to a child having crooked teeth, and treatment options like braces may be a necessity in order to fix the problem. That’s why introducing dental hygiene early and booking in regular dental check-ups are so important. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure!
Concerned about your child developing crooked teeth? The friendly staff at Australia Dental can help! Contact us on (07) 3888 9125 or (07) 3284 7112.